Do your hands ever feel not quite right, but you’re not sure why? You might be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that occurs when the tissue around a tunnel in the wrist becomes swollen and crowds the nerve. Symptoms of carpal tunnel include:
Most patients find that carpal tunnel symptoms occur gradually and become more severe over time. It’s also common to experience symptoms at night and discomfort that awakens you from sleep.
Carpal tunnel affects 3 to 6 percent of the adult population. Women are 3 times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome because their carpal tunnel is smaller, and it’s a common condition during pregnancy. Individuals with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that affect nerves are also higher risk.
Not all carpal tunnel is caused in the workplace, but it’s a repetitive motion injury, which means it’s often the result of performing repetitive tasks with the hands and arms.
These are a few examples of tasks that can cause carpal tunnel in the workplace:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a recent article with new statistics and information about carpal tunnel and who’s most affected.
Whether you can get workers’ compensation for carpal tunnel depends on the state where you work. Some states treat the condition as an “accident” and others call it an “occupational disease.”
Many states include occupational diseases under workers’ compensation the same as any other injury. In those states, you’d have to prove that you suffered from carpal tunnel because your work activities made you more likely to have the condition than the average person who doesn’t engage in those activities.
If your state only allows workers’ compensation for an accident and not an occupational disease, you’d need to prove your carpal tunnel claim differently. The legal definitions of “accident” and “injury” could depend on your state. If carpal tunnel syndrome is an “accident” in your state, you’d need to prove the condition was caused by a specific event or incident.
Your employer might try to show that your carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of factors outside the workplace. For example, if you have arthritis or diabetes—two conditions that increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing carpal tunnel—your employer’s insurance company might claim the condition isn’t a result of a workplace injury.
It’s not just about your physical conditions, though—you might be asked about what you do outside of work. If you’re a tennis player, pianist or other musician, frequently carry young children or babies, or engage in other activities that put strain on your arms and wrists, it can be hard to prove that carpal tunnel is the result of your job.
There are both surgical and non-surgical methods for treating carpal tunnel. Non-surgical methods include:
If workers’ compensation covers your carpal tunnel treatment, you can receive:
Workers’ compensation is designed to benefit both the employee and the employer. If you’re the injured employee, a workers’ compensation settlement provides funds to cover expenses for treatment and lost wages. It’s an exclusive remedy, which means you can’t make additional claims or file a lawsuit related to this injury.
If you filed a workers’ compensation claim for carpal tunnel and your employer’s insurance company is unwilling to settle, it’s time to find a workers’ compensation lawyer. A claim dispute is tricky, and laws vary by state. A carpal tunnel claim is less clear-cut than other workplace injuries because it occurs gradually and can be the result of risk factors outside the workplace. As a result, it’s hard to prove you’re entitled to workers’ compensation.
The Enjuris Guide to Workers’ Compensation answers all your questions about when workers’ compensation covers your injury and if you need an attorney. You can also see workers’ compensation specifics in your state to determine what comes next.
Workers’ compensation insurance can be a great solution, but the system isn’t always perfect. Your workers’ compensation lawyer will guide you through what can be a complicated process and help reach your desired outcome.